IBEW Local 134 Urges Gov. Pritzker to Protect Essential Workers with COVID Vaccine

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Despite continuing to serve on front lines, IBEW Local 134 members denied priority access.

Chicago — Today members of IBEW Local 134 called on Governor J.B. Pritzker to reverse his policy of excluding building trades workers from the current phase of vaccination, which jeopardizes the health and safety of nearly 200,000 essential workers while they continue to serve in vital front-line positions across Chicagoland and Illinois. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Pritzker has categorized construction workers as essential in order for them to continue to perform their critical functions.

“When you have groups that were deemed essential by the Governor from day one in March 2020 now being told to go to the back of the line to be vaccinated, that’s just not right. I don’t get that,” said IBEW Local 134 Business Manager Don Finn. “We know there is a shortage of vaccines and the rollout is taking time. All we are asking for is the ability to register now, just like all of the other essential workers that are included in his 1B phase of the vaccine rollout. That’s the right thing to do, the safe thing for us and all the people we interact with while we’re out on the job. It’s what our members deserve after 11 months of serving the people of Chicago and Illinois at the request of the Governor himself.”

Finn railed against the inequity of being deemed essential previously, yet not being prioritized for vaccination access. He noted that the 12,500 IBEW Local 134 members have been bravely, quietly and skillfully conducting their work on sites in some of the most critical structures, such as hospitals, airports, railways, water reclamation facilities and others, since the pandemic began. State, city and county leaders have repeatedly acknowledged the vital contributions of Local 134 members to protecting the health and safety of Chicagoans throughout the pandemic.

Finn added that Local 134 electricians are on the job right now helping to ensure delivery of power in critical places such as operating rooms in Chicagohospitals and on the runways at O’Hare Airport where cargo deliveries of vaccine doses are arriving daily. “We are the definition of essential,” Finn said.

“We have been 100 percent all in, answering the call to serve day in and day out, while we put our own health on the line,” said Finn. “We have watched while members of Local 134 contracted COVID-19, brought it home to their families and even lost their life over it. And now the Governor says we don’t deserve access to the vaccine even in wave 2? It’s outrageous, unsafe, dangerous and disrespectful.”

Finn added that hundreds of Local 134 members have had COVID-19, and some have died from the virus.

“The most important place during this whole pandemic has been the hospitals. Do you think our electricians said, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s COVID in that hospital. I’m not going in there?’ No, they’ve gone to work so those hospitals could remain open,” Finn said.

Finn is frustrated because he says he has had multiple meetings and conversations with the Governor’s office, and was under the impression that his members would be granted the same essential status they have always had, to continue to conduct their vital work in the safest way possible.

“Governor Pritzker betrayed our trust by not granting vaccine access to building trades workers in phase 1B. We are front-line essential workers who are at high risk of exposure, just as we have been every day of the past 11 months. Our service and dedication have never wavered,” Finn said.

The Governor’s office did not provide a basis for their decision to exclude building trades workers from phase 1B of the vaccination rollout.

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